Coming of Age Challenge #1: Physical

Note: If you are unaware of the Coming of Age Challenge, please go to "What is the Coming of Age Challenge" and learn how you can have fun and help your daughter, nieces, and friends move into teen years with confidence and pride.

Our first challenge for the Coming of Age 12-13 was a physical challenge.

A Bike Ride from Tiburon – across the Ferry – through San Francisco – over the Golden Gate Bridge – along the waterfront of Sausalito  -- down to Mill Valley – over the freeway and back to Tiburon. A 25 mile ride under the glorious September sun.

We are your average bike riders of 5-10 miles a few times a year, this however was a true adventure of mind, body, and spirit.

We started out riding down the 2 miles from our house to the Tiburon Ferry catching the 10:40 am. Sitting outside on the Ferry with the wind in our hair was the perfect beginning for this adventure. Arriving at the SF Ferry building we rode down the embarcadero and turned off to ride up to Chinatown where a celebration with a dragon parade was taking place. The streets for the first time in years were closed off to cars and we were lucky enough to ride through the streets sans cars. Turning back to north beach we stopped for lunch at a diner on Grant Street and took a few minutes to push our bikes up the hill of Coit Tower trying to get a glimpse of the parrots who live in the trees nearby.

Avoiding the crowds at Fisherman’s wharf we chose to stay higher on the hills riding (and sometimes pushing) our bikes until we arrived at Van Ness. Smooth sailing took us to the Marina where there was a family kite flying contest and runners, walkers, and bikers enjoying the sun. Down the path towards Crissy Field and heading under the GG Bridge we turned upwards to climb towards the top of the bridge.

A few more pushes we made it and stopped to get strategize on how we would ride over the bridge (look straight ahead and not towards the cars or towards the great ocean beneath us). I have driven across that bridge hundreds of times. I have walked firmly on my two feet, but riding across on the ocean side with a seemingly short  railing on both sides brought up images of one big wind or hit from another bike would send us flying over the bridge into the deep sea. Maybe it was the speed of the bikes, men and women in biking gear pushing hard with little regard for Sunday bikers missing each other by a narrow margin, or the feeling of how small and vulnerable we are; whatever the reason it was the part of the journey that was emotionally the most challenging. Fifteen minutes later we stopped on the far side of the bridge catching our breath and rubbing our sore hands from gripping so hard.

The next venture was down the hills of Sausalito along the bay.  The initial descent was exhilarating until a car passed us by barely missing us as the road narrowed.  

Watching Zoe get a bit wobbly and then hitting the curb, I shouted from behind for her to stop and we would take a rest.  If ever there is a place where bikes and cars don’t nicely coexist this is it. Too many cars, too narrow a road, and bikes that have no where to go.

Staking out a place in the shade by the water we rehydrated and shook our heads at how a handful of (mostly guys)  could commute everyday by bike and not more of them get injured. We have a long way to go to make bike riding safe for everyday commuting.

Knowing we had about another 10 miles to go we slowly dragged ourselves on the bike and just kept riding. By this time however, something kicked in and it was almost easier to ride than walk. Down the bike path we felt at ease and made a plan for crossing over the freeway (a major challenge) and back to Tiburon. Two more small hills were in front of us and with utter determination not to stop and push we pedaled fast and with mind over matter made it through.

Sailing into our driveway we cheered and laughed and then I fell.